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Starbucks FD: Mental health is the next big pandemic

In the era where the risk of employee burnout is high, businesses should place more emphasis on the health and wellbeing of their organisation

The next big challenge business leaders could soon be faced with is a mental health pandemic, warned Jonny Jacobs, Financial Director at Starbucks EMEA.

Speaking at November’s CFO Agenda last week, he said “accounting and finance professionals can play a huge role in driving change in organisations and influencing the topic on the strategic agenda […] to make a difference for us, our teams and our colleagues.”

“Mental […] health is the next big pandemic coming down the track, if it’s not with us already.”

Organisations are already grappling with the ‘Great Resignation’ prompted by employee burnout due to heightened productivity pressures during the pandemic and by increased flexibility of working and of the labour market. A report by Owl Labs found 25 percent of workers changed jobs during the pandemic, with 87 percent of them doing so to decrease stress.

Jacobs highlighted important investments organisations can undertake to improve their working environment include face-to-face or online training to build awareness and the provision of well-being apps, such as Headspace and The Mindfulness App.

“There’s a huge productivity benefit [to investing in mental health prevention] and but also, more importantly, is the right thing to do.”

Similarly, Radu Maftei, VP of finance and accounting at P&G, stressed “business leaders need to be attuned to the health and wellbeing of their organisations,” putting greater emphasis on seeking ways to understand and talk more about mental health.

Maftei highlighted the importance of empathy in business leaders.

“The ability to emotionally understand what people are feeling, seeing things from their point of view, imagining yourself in their places is key. Empathy really allows us to create an environment of open communication and more effective feedback.”

Having an “engaged organisation” will be key to value creation and “staying ahead of the game” in the coming years, added Maftei.

“The world is becoming more volatile. Our business, like many others, is facing disruption from a variety of external sources – from Covid [to] Brexit to currency fluctuations, accentuated by leapfrog evolution in technology and incredible shift in retail trends and supply chain.”

“Your only way to stay ahead of the game and identify where the value creation is today, [and] in five years from now, is by having a very engaged organisation. It is linked to adding intelligence and agility to our business operation while maintaining a strong team culture and cohesiveness of the finance team.”

One of the ways organisations can drive employee engagement is through prioritising goals.

“Keeping the team focused on the really big, large ticket items was encouraging for the team [and] we started seeing the results coming in,” he added. “[By] simplifying the activity process, we entered into a positive spiral that kept everyone very motivated and engaged.”

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